Two Academy Members Win 2010 Kavli Prizes

Cell biologist James Rothman and nanoscientist Nadrian Seeman are among eight winners of the $1 million award this year.

Published June 03, 2010

Two Academy members are among eight scientists whose discoveries in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience have been recognized with the award of the $1 million 2010 Kavli Prize.

Nadrian Seeman, a professor in the New York University Department of Chemistry and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences since 1979, was one of two joint recipients of the prize in the nanoscience category for inventing structural DNA nanotechnology when he realized the building blocks of the genetic blueprint of living organisms could be harnessed to create the raw materials for new, nanoscale circuits, sensors, and medical devices.

James Rothman, Executive Director of the Yale Center for High Throughput Cell Biology at Yale University, was one of three joint recipients of the neuroscience prize for his work clarifying how vesicles are directed to the points at which they are needed and when to release their contents, not just for those involved in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain but in a wide range of key physiological functions in the body, such as hormone release, insulin secretion, and cell division. Rothman, who has been an Academy member since 2006, is also Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Professor and Chairman of Cell Biology, and Professor of Chemistry at Yale.

The laureates were chosen for research that has transformed knowledge of basic units of matter, laid the foundations for the field of nanotechnology, revealed the molecular basis for the transfer of brain signals and other physiological functions, and made possible the building of telescopes that can see deeper into space and further back in time.

Those announced today are the second group of recipients of the biennial Kavli Prizes, following the 2008 launch of the award. The Kavli Prize was established to recognize outstanding scientific research, honor highly creative scientists, promote public understanding of scientists and their work, and to encourage international scientific cooperation. The Prizes are a partnership of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

Winners have been selected by committees of leading international scientists in the three fields. The prize committees are appointed by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters after receiving recommendations from international academies and scientific organizations including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Society of Germany, the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK's Royal Society.

Today's announcement was made in Oslo by Nils Chr. Stenseth, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and transmitted live at the opening event of the World Science Festival in New York.

The laureates will each receive a scroll, a gold medal, and share of the $1,000,000 prize for each of the three fields.

The Kavli Prize was initiated by and named after Fred Kavli, founder of The Kavli Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research, and supporting scientists and their work. Mr Kavli said: "The Kavli Prizes were established to recognize truly exceptional scientists whose research has fundamentally and profoundly advanced our understanding of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. With this year's prizes, we continue to honor these pioneering researchers and their discoveries."